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iPhone 4S: (Augmented) Reality check

Improved hardware can lead to so much more than better graphics

If the barely disguised dismay of Apple's acolytes is any barometer, the rumour that iPhone 5 was to be announced at last night's conference had become indistinguishable from fact. Twitter was ablaze with disappointment, blog feeds were alive with gloomy predictions, and investors bought into the hype enough to send Apple's stock value plummeting by 5 per cent.

In the interests of perspective, at its lowest it fell to $355 a share, or a market capitalisation considerably north of $300 billion - fortunately, Apple's stock price has started to recover since those dark moments.

However, while design enthusiasts and money-men somehow felt cheated, the creators and players of games had good reason to be excited. The form factor of the iPhone 4S may be identical, but look below the surface and the potential is obvious: bigger, deeper, and better looking games; one step closer to a console in your hand.

To get a clearer idea of the impact the new spec will have on what mobile games can do, IndustryGamers talked to a range of developers and publishers. For the most part, the responses are an enthusiastic spin on what was immediately apparent from Epic's demonstration of Infinity Blade 2: games will be faster, games will be prettier.

IceFlame co-founder David Deacon goes into more detail, explaining that "advanced shading techniques" like deferred rendering - found in AAA console games like Killzone 3 and Crysis 2 - will now be a part of the mobile developer's toolbox. However, as alluring as that sounds, the more compelling ramifications lie beyond frame-rate and visual fidelity.

Brain Cho, director of business development at geo-location developer Booyah, believes that the improved hardware will allow its GPS functions to be used in new ways.

"The new improved hardware of iPhone 4S, such as the dual core CPU, eight mega pixel camera and improved data speeds, will help us come up with innovative real world game mechanics that weren't possible in handhelds or older generation smart phones," he said.

Brian Selzer, president and co-founder of Ogmento, also sees great potential in the 4S hardware for augmented reality games, which will make full use of the improved camera and faster processing speeds.

"An Augmented Reality environment, utilizing a live video feed, mixed with quality 3D graphics, requires significant horsepower for a compelling and seamless experience," Selzer said. "The new camera has improvements that will allow advancement in Computer Vision capabilities. The better the camera can see and understand a person, place or thing in the real world, the more robust an experience we can produce."

Sourcebits CEO Rohit Singal sees the launch of the 4S as the moment that his company ceases research for AR games on the platform, and starts making them instead.

"We feel it is definitely time to work toward an augmented future. It's going to be a lot of fun testing the new camera and figuring out how best to implement its capabilities."

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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